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Where are you from?

I went out to a Black History Month event last night with an old acquaintance from a book club that I belonged to years ago.  That’s another story and I’ll get to that at some point.  Something happened that just illustrated a point I was trying to make in my previous post.

It’s been my experience when I am asked that question – “Where are you from?” or “Where are you from originally?”  that white people don’t expect me to answer “Red Deer” or “Winnipeg”, but answer that I’m from another country.  I live in Canada, and having lived in both Toronto and Vancouver, which is full of immigrants from all over the world, it’s a fair question I guess.  Except that I am asked solely because of my skin colour.  I don’t think I look remotely “exotic” whatever that means. I am not dressed in an ethnic outfit, nor do I possess an accent or walk around with a city map with a dazed expression on my face.  I just don’t look like I’m derived from the dominant culture.    Just last night, my friend (black female, wearing micro dreads and an audible Trinidadian accent) and I were standing on a skytrain platform in the middle of a conversation and a guy with a guitar starts complaining to us about Translink not having enough opportunities for new buskers.  And then he starts yammering about how he’s played all over the world and even “your president” would be against  blah, blah, blah.  (Apparently there’s something about me that attracts people who want to bond with me.  The guy had a point though, we could use more new buskers. )  Now he’s assumed we’re American because two black women couldn’t be Canadian or from exactly the city they’re living in.  And often when I say that I’m from here, it’s followed up by a dubious look and, “No, where are REALLY from?”  I know black women whose parents were born here, they were born in this city and they still get the question and astonished looks when they get a reply.  This question is to establish a difference or at the very least an “otherness”.  I believe that is the heart of the matter.   In the kindest of ways, perhaps they might be seeking to find out if they can relate to me if they had vacationed or spent time in the country where I am supposedly from.  I no longer spend the time to explain to random strangers that I was actually born in England and my parents who had emigrated there from Barbados then moved to Canada 2 years later.  They’re not asking me that question so they can get to know me better and become my friend.  They just want to satisfy their curiosity or confirm their belief.

Now I do get the same thing from black people.  However, the intent is completely different.  They are trying to establish a cultural connection with me.  To find out if we are from the same place, same side, do we share a commonality. In a place where you are the minority, this is an important question. If a lived in an African country, people would want to know what tribe I was from, if they couldn’t figure it out by my face.

I will give the appropriate answer when I detect a benign attempt for connection and conversation.  I don’t get upset or indignant.  I’m simply used to it. When a barista asks you, “Hey, how are you doing today?”, do you honestly answer, “Well, shitty actually, my husband and I had a fight this morning and I feel kinda fragile and I’m stressed out cause I hate my job, can you throw in a little extra caramel drizzle?” or “Why?  Do you really care?!”  You just say, “Fine, how are you?”.

On a basic human level, we always try to categorize one another:  fertile vs. infertile, married vs. single, careers women vs. SAHM, whatever.   I am not saying it’s the rudest question in the world, I’m just saying that I get asked that because it’s assumed I am not really “Canadian”.  And please don’t go down the road of well, we’re all from Africa really cause I’ve heard that one, too.

And since it’s Black History Month for another 26 days, I may get a little more uppity this month.

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And speaking of adoption…

And speaking of international adoptions, please read the article recently in the Globe and Mail.  And check out the comments!  I read the first two pages, then quit while I was ahead.  Trust me, they always deteriorate. Wow, along with the usual drivel, adoptive parents speak out and add their  2 cents.  Good for them!  It’s interesting how some people think that adoptive parents shouldn’t even have a say.  Hey, guess what, everybody should have  a say. Even the asshats who love to tell you that you who exactly you should adopt, even though they have no intention whatsoever of giving a child in need a home. And for the love of all that’s holy, do we really need to hear that “why don’t you adopt from your own backyard?”  Adopt Canadian?  We’ve got a big ole country full of provinces who do not work with one another and some effectively discourage adoption.  How many times have I read a blogger who wanted to do just that, and children’s services (on both sides of the border) made it nearly impossible?  Omigod, don’t get me started.

The article highlights rising costs and roadblocks to international adoption. I tempted to email this article to a the girl who once suggested I adopt from China.  Come to think of it, she was Chinese.  Yeah, that application would have gone down in flames. And  I thought 2 years was a long wait.  Hah!  Too fat, too black, NEXT!

So let me know what you think.

Another road less travelled

I’ve written a few paragraphs, edited it, then deleted the whole thing only to start again.  I wanted to say something, but figured what I was trying to say was completely useless to the women who read my blog, completely useless to those who are still trying to conceive, or completely useless cause you’re just fine as you are.

Two years into having a child in our lives, I wonder how long I will still identify as being infertile.  Seriously, I’m 48 now.  Cranky.  With a seriously compromised uterus.   (Did I mention I was carded at the liquor store a few weeks ago? Yep, that made me a lot less cranky.) There have been a couple of pregnancy announcements lately of women in my acting sphere, one of which is in her 40’s) and I admit I felt that little ping.  It’s almost like a kneejerk reaction from the old TTC me.  You know the one.  The one that says she’s pregnant and you’re not and never gonna be.  Followed by the right thinking brain that says, hey, girl you’re 48, you know and a mother already who doesn’t pee when she sneezes, so stop it.  You have gray  hairs and chin hairs, really, why should you care?  Observe the thought and then watch it pass.  I guess I’m always going to care, at least a little bit.  In that I’ve always wanted to go to Greece but I’ve been banned from ever travelling there kind of way.

Of course, I also have a child – yes, people JUST ONE, and I’m quite content.  Grateful to be able to share the experience of parenting with my spouse.  I will now go to baby showers if I’m invited.  I will hold other people’s babies.  It doesn’t hurt anymore.  That old dream of having a little girl half me, half DH is long gone.  Perhaps she’ll  manifest in another lifetime, who knows?  In the present, I’ve got an amazing little boy who is teaching me that motherhood is not for the weak. I am rewarded not with big paycheques or big movie roles, but with smiles, smooches, and “thank you, Mama”.  He’s not the slightest bit interested in propping up my sagging ego, but he does want me to pick him up and kiss his booboos away.  On those days, I stop worrying about what I don’t have.  Didn’t have.

Oddly enough, when my back aches, I’m tired from having my sleep continually interrupted and I’m bored out of my mind from daily routines, I think of what it would have been like had our adoption not taken place.  Remember my plan if things didn’t work out?  I was planning on going to Bali to have a nervous breakdown in very dramatic fashion.   Or if we had just chosen not to be parents at all.  No doubt, I’d be a little bit skinnier, perhaps I’d be working full time and I’d definitely be doing more creative work.  We might own our own home, probably a condo downtown, we’d be travellling more.  I’m sure I would have been content. I also know that in a part of my heart, my child that never was would be alive and well, keeping me company at 3am.

On those days, I think of all the women whose babies died or never came to be.  I wish adoption had been an option to them.  And yes, I do understand why a lot of people don’t go that route to become parents.  It is NOT  a choice for everyone.  I’m certainly not going to attempt it again myself.  I get why women try over and over and over.  Cause I did, too.  Yet, I wish some of those incredible women, whose hearts are so big and so full of love to give to a child, had chosen to adopt a child from wherever.  So that they could go down the other road less travelled. It’s nice here, even when it rains.

What’s the big deal with Greece, anyway?

Tougher than it looks

I had meant to write a post about this a while ago but it just never happened.  When I found out that Steve Jobs was adopted, I was curious about the details.  Lollipop Goldstein from Stirrup Queens writes about it in her review of his biography and then Harriet from See Theo Run wrote  a thought-provoking post on Adoption Guilt.

I read about some of the details in the Washington Post  (if the link doesn’t work, you can Google it).  According to the article :

“If there was one trauma that persisted throughout much of his life, and which seems somehow connected to his extreme behavior, it was the effect of his adoption.”

” His adoptive parents, whom Jobs seemed to revere, explained that they had picked him out. But through much of his life, Jobs appeared to have been on an ill-defined spiritual quest — including a seven-month trip to India, extreme diets and primal-scream therapy. And the quest at times seemed to relate to his adoption, his friends told Isaacson.

“The primal scream and the mucusless diets, he was trying to cleanse himself and get deeper into his frustration about his birth,” a friend, Greg Calhoun, said.”

The media reports that the fact that Steve Jobs  was adopted as the source of his inner turmoil, and by inference, his birthparents and his adoptive parents are to blame.  There is a lot out there about the pain of adoptees and the pain of birthmothers, but not much about the pain of adoptive parents.

Yet there is this quote from the book:

“In the book, Isaacson writes,

Jobs dismissed this.  “There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s ridiculous,” he insisted.  “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned.  I’ve always felt special.  My parents made me feel special” (page 5).”

Before the Precious’ arrival in our lives, I was reading a lot of blogs (and a couple of books) about far-ranging consequences of adoption by post adoptive parents, birthmothers and academics.  Not enjoyable reading I must say and occasionally, it was quite discouraging.  Still, I figured if it didn’t work out, I’d have a quiet nervous breakdown in a tropical locale and then I’d get on with my life.  After all, no one would die, right?  Right?  Well, long story, short, we brought him home I finally exhaled.  And cried.  I had to force myself to stop.  Everyone thought they were tears of joy.

Not quite.  Well,  love, relief , insecurity, and a deep gnawing worry for this child I was entrusted with.  Would he be happy with us?  With me?  Did he miss his birthmother?  Did he know her smell and her voice and miss the absence of it?  Somehow, did he know, just know that I was not HER.  A friend of mine did reiki on him, and told me how to do it so that he would not feel untethered in this world.  That his spirit would cry out to ME and know that I would come when he cried.  I did not want him to feel… well, lost.  I told myself that all mothers worry for their children.

I cried a lot over the next few months.  I was amazed that he was in our lives.  Giddy, really.  For a while, I actually felt FULL.  And sometimes I was just plain sad to think that our joy had come at his birthmother’s loss.  I knew in my bones that had she had any support at all, I would have gone home without him.  I would not have been surprised or even angry.  This was not about whether who would love him more.  Ultimately, she loved him enough to let him go.  Had it not been to me, it would have been someone else.   Yet daimoku brought us all together.  That gave me a measure of peace. Then again, I also felt like I had done something wrong.  How else to explain the guilt and the pain?   I had been in contact with the birthmother, listened to her pour out her feelings, tried to allay all her fears, advocated for her, be there for her as much as I could and now I was gone and I honestly felt like I had TAKEN her child away from her. It took a while for me to get over that.  When you’re an adoptive parent, you’re not supposed to complain about anything.  You finally got what you wanted after all, right?  Shut up already.

Oh, sure it crosses my mind that  one day, this child might reject us.  Or suffer some horrible emotional damage that we would be blamed for. (Of course, biological parents also get that privilege but no one ever brings that up.)   Or we would be left trying to put the pieces of his heart back together if his heart got broken by his biological parents.

I kept having to explain things to people.  Lots of people.  One day I was just walking my dog in the park and the next I had a baby in a stroller.  People want to know.  I kept getting introduced as someone who had adopted and therefore a story was owed.  Or someone felt like they had to tell me that they had been adopted.  So far I haven’t met anyone who has been pissed off about it, luckily.  I’ve heard plenty of things like, “Oh, our people would never do that.”  or they were disappointed my kid wasn’t rescued from a desolate African nation.  I’ve even been thanked for adopting a black child especially.

I remembered years ago how my mother would warn me that if anything were to ever “happen” to me, that I should come home.  That she would raise the baby with me.  As a 16 year old, I thought she was such a dork for even saying something like that.  I mean, really, I  was hardly popular with the boys.  Yet, she had let me know that she would not turn her back on me.  When I was 19 and finally had a boyfriend, I  planned my deflowering and went dutifully to the doctor’s office for the birth control pill.  I was not going to be a statistic.  I could never disappoint my parents in that way.   Fast forward decades later, and that’s what I was counting on in order for me to have a baby.  After all, if you can’t have your own, you can “just adopt”.

I’m asked often why we don’t have another child.  I smile and say that the Precious is “my miracle child” or “my one and only”.  Yet even if I was 15 years younger, I don’t know that I’d have the heart to go through another adoption process again.  But not because it’s too expensive or that raising kids is hard.  It’s because the effects of infertility, failed IVFs and even this journey to the Precious cost me more than I ever dreamed.  The last thing I need is to go through another intensive home study/profile building/finger printing, multiple lawyer cheque cashing deal again.

I hope to instill in my child that he is loved and wanted and adored.  By all who loved him from the day he was born.  I can’t shield him from all the feelings that belong to him.  I can’t protect him from “what ifs”.  All I know is that I can let him know that we’ll always be his parents, he can always come home.  It’s up to him to decide where that is.

For the record, he’s worth it all. I will keep the promises made, I will be the bridge when he’s ready to cross it, and I will love him even if he turns from me.  Frankly if I survive toddlerhood, I can survive anything.  Perhaps my journey was more than “just” about having a child.